LaShawn Merritt ran the race of his life when it mattered most to defeat defending Olympic and two-time world champion Jeremy Wariner in a 400 metres final showdown that ended with a US sweep.
Merritt, the 2007 world runner-up to Wariner, won in 43.75 seconds, a career best that only four runners in history have ever bettered.
Wariner was a stunned second in 44.74 with David Neville completing the US haul in 44.80.
The best prior time for Merritt was 43.96 from his loss to Wariner in last year’s worlds.
Merritt was third coming off the turn behind Neville in the outside lane and Wariner, who moved into the lead as he reached the straightaway for home.
But Merritt then surged past Wariner into the lead and stretched the gap with every stride.
Six strides from the line, Merritt glanced to his right and saw nothing but air in Wariner’s lane.
He powered to the line and Wariner could only hang his head in frustration after he finished as a man he dominated in the past year had taken his measure.
Merritt beat Wariner in June at Berlin to snap his rival’s nine-race win streak and again at the US trials. Wariner answered in Europe, running a pre-Olympic 2008 world best of 43.86 at Paris to win a month ago.
Wariner, 24, split with long-time coach Clyde Hart early this year over financial terms and Merritt, 22, is Hart’s new pupil.
US men have dominated the Olympic 400, now winning a seventh gold medal in the event and 12 of the past 14.
Wariner could not equal his career best of 43.45 from last year’s world final, which makes him the third-best all-time performer.
Christopher Brown of Bahamas, the third-fastest man this year, was fourth in 44.84 with France’s Leslie Djhone, seventh at the 2004 Olympics, next in 45.11 followed by Britain’s Martyn Rooney in 45.12, Trinidad and Tobago’s Renny Quow i^n 45.22 and world indoor runner-up Johan Wissman of Sweden last in 45.39